The Catalan police searched the offices of FC Barcelona football club this morning. Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu has also been arrested, as have several other important figures within the club. The research is part of the so-called Barçagate that erupted a year ago.
It is no secret that things have been messing around within FC Barcelona for some time. The club is struggling with serious financial problems, sporting shortcomings and a dissatisfied star player Lionel Messi. The police raid on the Barça offices is a new low point for the tradition club.
In addition to the raid on the offices of FC Barcelona, the Catalan police have also made several arrests, according to Cadena SER. The most famous name is former chairman Josep Maria Bartomeu. In addition, former CEO Oscar Grau and former board member Jaume Masferrer would also have been arrested.
Online smear campaign
The investigation by the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, is part of the so-called Barçagate. In February 2020, it became known that then-chairman Josep Bartomeu would have hired the PR agency I3 Ventures to clear his name online and discredit opponents.
According to the Spanish media, the online smear campaign would have targeted Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Xavi and Gerard Pique, among others. Barcelona immediately denied all charges, but six board members resigned shortly afterwards out of dissatisfaction with the state of affairs within the club under chairman Bartomeu.
Investigation revealed that FC Barcelona had indeed paid large sums to I3 Ventures, up to six times its market value. However, they could not prove that they were effective in making smear campaigns for Bartomeu against opponents.
Although Bartomeu was thus exonerated, he stepped down as FC Barcelona president in October 2020 after persistent criticism. 20,000 members of the club had also signed a petition for a vote of no confidence at the time.
The fact that the matter is now resurfacing undoubtedly has to do with the upcoming presidential elections at FC Barcelona. On March 7, votes can be cast there between Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa. Laporta is the favorite, but Freixa, who has ties with Bartomeu, has been coming up fiercely in the polls lately.